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This technique is useful when a good quality united group judgement is required. A balance to maintain constructive discussion and idea contribution whilst at the same time steering away from biasing or destructive group anxiety is the key to success here.

Make the assumption that a general discussion has taken place regarding some issue, a point has been reached where the judgement or convergence is required, the estimate-discuss-estimate (Huber and Delbecq, 1972) method now comes into action via the following steps:

  1. Estimate, individuals vote privately in any way that feels appropriate to the task in hand and the judgement required, their votes are handed in via a round robin without discussion. Each individual has the opportunity to think through his or her preferences, avoiding the pressures to conform.
  2. Discuss, Averages for the group are generated by the computer and displayed. The group then participates in an open discussion of these initial judgements.
  3. Estimate, following this discussion group individuals vote again, privately, without discussion. This final vote is average (as in step 2) and used to represent the consensus.

‘Estimate-discuss-estimate’ (see also Delphi Method) is considered more accurate than synthetic groups or surveys, simple interacting groups or Delphi groups where a precise choice is required.

A decision body often wants time to reflect and this approach simulates what decision groups often do with planning information. They consider choices as preliminary or open to change, and they anticipate further input on how members feel and the facts they offer. Hastening this process with ‘estimate-discuss-estimate’ procedure often saves the time and frustration of dealing with changes in future meetings.